My brother and his wife Mikey live in Nome, Alaska. (Where I was born.). Mikey loves to go hiking, she’s been up Mt Denali… sheesh! Anyway, Mikey hikes…sometimes by herself, sometimes with a friend, sometimes with her daughter’s dog, but she hikes. She picks blueberries, she takes pictures, and if she is lucky, she will come across a bramble of scrub brush a Musk Ox has rubbed against to shed its winter coat.
The downy undercoat is called qiviut and it is a luxury fiber, much like cashmere, except way more cool. A Musk Ox is kinda a prehistoric Buffalo….and they are really mean, you don’t want to challenge one of those guys.
You can buy qiviut yarn, the last time I checked it retails for about $100 an ounce, lace weight, but it’s so much better when your wonderful sister in law sends you some yarn, or some fluff she has collected and you can spin it yourself! It’s really really soft and develops a nice halo after you knit with it.
So last year, during the initial COVID stay at home order, I was going thru my yarn room and put all my little balls of qiviut in one container…I have quite a lot that Mikey has sent me over the years.
So…I knit these hats….the mouse brown is the original color….I dyed some to get the espresso, burnt orange, marine blue and medium blues.
I had a lot of fun coming up with the whale pattern, I down loaded a cross-stitch whale pattern, then I used graph paper and made him shorter and taller, with a better tail and a water spout! I kinda love these hats!
I also had a little batch of yarn that was spun more firmly so I knit a baby set of booties and a hat….used some cashmere yarn for the white ties on the booties.
I still have some unwashed, unspun fluff that I’m separating. I try to separate all the sun bleached ivory fluff from the darker qiviut….because I can dye the lighter group a brighter color. With the darker Group I often do a wash of black….that will get me the espresso brown yarn, which pops when I use any other color. I also use blue dye, and I might do a purple this time and that orange is very nice too! With the ivory colored fluff I might try an Apple green, or brighter blue. I don’t dye the fluff, I spin the yarn, then I dye it
I might have mentioned before that qivuet, when you buy it, is lace weight. it’s so expensive, that you want to get as much yardage from it as you can. Except sometimes things happen….my brother, 40 years ago, sent my grandmother in Oregon, some raw fiber that she had a friend in her guild spin it for her…I still have the note with the spinners name….but it’s bulky weight….
I’ve had this bulky yarn for 20 years and have no idea what to do with it, but hopefully Mikey will take it off my hands…it could make something really really cool, but the responsibility is just too much!
I also have some qiviut fiber that I sent to a Sun Fiber Mill, a cashmere processing mill in Montana. ( that was after a different mill totally destroyed a pound of qiviut…ugh…). I figured a cashmere mill would know how to handle it. I had them blend half of it with 30% silk and 20% merino because I like to dye stuff…and it is beautiful! I’m still spinning it….as fine as I can…maybe I will finish it this January….
See the difference in color from the dark 100% qiviut they processed and the blended fiber?
Right now I’m knitting a hat out of a qiviut/merino/ nylon blend that Mikey sent me…I dyed the blue, and I also dyed some espresso…and I think I will dye one skein a bright deep red!
Sometimes when I’m sitting on my deck, sorting fibers and then toss some bad fluff over the railing I hope it makes it into a birds nest, which some local college science student finds and analyzes…and writes a paper about how Grand Rapids swallows line their nests with musk ox qiviut….